Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Franchises: Godzilla. Godzilla Raids Again (1955)/Gigantis, the Fire Monster (1959)

Godzilla Raids Again

File:Gojira no gyakushu poster.jpgSave for the entries in the Millennium series, this is the only Godzilla movie that I have no childhood connection to whatsoever. I first knew that it existed, at least in its Americanized Gigantis version, thanks to the entry in Crestwood House's series of monster movie books that talked about Godzilla, which I often checked out from my elementary school's library, but I wouldn't learn that it was actually known as Godzilla Raids Again (or at least, that's what the rough English translation of its Japanese title was) and that it was the second entry in the series until I read the Godzilla Compendium some time later when I was ten. It didn't matter, though, because even though that compendium created this determination in me to get every single Godzilla movie, especially now that I knew exactly how many there were and what they were called, this was the one film that eluded me throughout the years. No matter how hard I looked, I couldn't find this movie on VHS at all. I know that a VHS copy of the film existed but regardless, it was nowhere to be found no matter where I looked. So, from my late childhood to all the way into my early adulthood, there was a gap in my Godzilla collection in-between the original and King Kong vs. Godzilla. By 2007, I had long since stopped trying to find Godzilla Raids Again and had simply written it off as a "lost" film of sorts... until it ended up getting released on DVD that spring for the first time thanks to Classic Media. When I found out about that, I almost fainted. I couldn't believe that this Godzilla movie that had eluded me all my life was finally going to be within my grasp and I could now, at 19, finally complete my collection. There are no words to describe how excited I was when I picked up that DVD, along with Classic Media's release of Mothra vs. Godzilla, at Best Buy that spring. That weekend, I finally sat down and watched this Godzilla movie that I had been searching for longer than any other entry in the series... too bad it was hardly worth the wait. To say that this film is unremarkable is an understatement. Everything about it is just bland, from the story to the characters, the special effects, the "action" sequences, if you can call them that, and even Godzilla himself and his first battle with another monster. The movie is not horrible, mind you, but, at the same time, I kind of wish that it was really bad because at least then it would be memorable; instead, it's just "meh," which is almost worse than being absolutely terrible.

Tsukioka and Kobayashi are two pilots who use their planes as a means to spot schools of fish for an Osaka tuna company. One day, while on a fairly routine job, Kobayashi's plane has engine trouble and he's forced to land near a barren, rocky island known Iwato. Tsukioka manages to locate his friend put down on the island and, just when the two of them are about to leave, the man are horrified when they see two enormous creatures battling on the island, one of whom Tsukioka identifies as Godzilla. After a brief scuffle, the monsters tumble into the ocean and the two pilots take the opportunity to escape back to Osaka, where they report what they witnessed to the authorities. A scientist identifies the second monster that Godzilla was battling as Ankylosaurus, also known as Anguirus. Also present at the meeting is Dr. Yamane, the paleontologist from the original film, who informs the authorities that the Godzilla the pilots saw is of the same species as the first one that destroyed Tokyo not too long ago, with the H-bombs having mutated both of them, as well as Anguirus. Unfortunately, Yamane also tells them that, with both the Oxygen Destroyer and Dr. Serizawa gone, there is no way to kill this new Godzilla; instead, they can only lead him away from any areas that might come to harm with the use of flares, which enrage him because they bring back memories of the bomb and the mutation it caused him. Not too long afterward, Godzilla appears near Osaka and the plan to draw him away is put into action and it does work... until some criminals who are being pursued by the police crash the gasoline truck they've commandeered into an industrial complex, causing a massive fire. This immediately gets Godzilla's attention and draws him back to the city, followed soon after by Anguirus, who himself was attracted by the flares being used to lure Godzilla away. The two of them engage in a destructive battle that all but levels Osaka, including the headquarters of the tuna company, finally ending when Godzilla manages to mortally wound Anguirus and incinerate his body with his atomic breath. The following day, with the tuna company completely destroyed, both the owner and the branch manager decide to relocate the headquarters to their branch in Hokkaido until the one in Osaka is repaired. While Tsukioka, Kobayashi, and everyone else are happy that the company is going to go on, their revelry is short-lived when Godzilla destroys one of their fishing boats and takes refuge on a nearby icy island. Now, the company must join up with the military in order to defeat the monster before he destroys their very livelihood.

The reason why this film is so lackluster, especially when compared to the film that it was spawned from, is the hastiness at which it was put together. With Godzilla having been a big hit when it was released in Japan in November of 1954, the heads at Toho saw dollar signs and wanted to capitalize on the success while it was still hot. Think about this: the first film was released on November 3, 1954 and this sequel was released on April 24, 1955, not even six months later. That should give you an idea as to how this movie was just thrown together to make a buck. In fact, this movie reminds me a lot of The Son of Kong, the rushed sequel to King Kong that was released the very same year as its incredible parent film, in that they're both nothing more than cheap, cash-in sequels that were hastily put together before the filmmakers could come up with some really good stories for them and, even though they served their purpose and were fairly successful, they're both seen as vastly inferior to the films whose stories they're continuing. In fact, of the two, I'd much rather watch The Son of Kong than Godzilla Raids Again. That movie may not be a groundbreaking classic like the film it follows but it's still fairly entertaining and has some good aspects to it. Godzilla Raids Again, on the other hand, as we'll get into, is pretty frigging lame.

Ishiro Honda was busy with another film when Godzilla Raids Again was put into production and in his place, Toho put Motoyoshi Oda, a director whose overall filmography and career is not as well documented as those of his peers. He seemed to be someone who had great promise, having graduated from one of Japan's most prestigious universities, Waseda, and been accepted into the director's program at Tokyo's P.C.L., a film company that would later be incorporated into Toho. Oda studied under the same director who taught Honda as well as Akira Kurosawa and Senkichi Taniguchi and, while Honda and Taniguchi were forced to serve in the military, Oda was quickly promoted to director in 1940 after having been in training for only a few years. He would go on to direct as many as fifty films in his career and he also served as Ishiro Honda's assistant and second-unit director on Eagle of the Pacific in 1953, which is one of the most notable films Honda made before directing Godzilla. However, despite his extensive filmography, a lot of the movies that Oda directed didn't allow for any artistic expression and were low budget, quickly made films known as programmers whose purpose were mainly just to supply theaters with something to show. The reason his filmography is so extensive is because Toho had him making as many as seven films a year since they knew he would bring them in on time and on budget. This is no doubt why he was chosen to direct Godzilla Raids Again and since he had studied under the same director as Honda, you'd think his skill would be equal to Honda's. But, as we'll go into, when you watch this film, it becomes obvious why Oda never became as acclaimed a director as Honda and especially Akira Kurosawa. Since he didn't have many years of training, I'm pretty sure that his skills simply weren't up to snuff and is why Toho didn't give him more prestigious films to work on. Interestingly, despite his long filmography, Godzilla Raids Again is the only film of Oda's that has ever been released outside of Japan and it's not known if he directed any more films after 1958 or if he just quit. Information on him is so obscure that, like Terry Morse, I can't find a confirmed image of him. I've been able to find some behind-the-scenes photographs on the film but I can't find any confirmation that one of the men in the photos is indeed Oda. Regardless, Oda died in 1973 at the age of 63.

The characters in this film are very forgettable, to say the least. While none of them come across as unlikable and the acting is good, they're just very bland people and there's nothing all that deep to their personalities, as is the case with the characters in a lot of 50's monsters movies. The lead, Tsukioka (Hiroshi Koizumi, who would become a familiar face to fans of Japanese sci-fi films over the years), is a great guy, very handsome and dapper, and willing to do anything to help, especially when it comes to the tuna company that he works as a pilot for but, other than that, there's really nothing to him. In fact, I say that he's the lead but in reality, the only meaningful things he does in the movie are, confirm along with Kobayashi the existence of a second Godzilla and the new monster, Anguirus, and lend his flying abilities to aid in the military's search for Godzilla, eventually flying his own fighter plane and firing the missiles that completely bury Godzilla in the ice and snow as an act of vengeance for the monster killing Kobayashi. He and Kobayashi also try to help the police catch the criminals who've escaped from the prison bus but that attempt fails completely. That's really all I can say about Tsukioka. He's likable enough, but he's just bland. Believe me, though, when I say that his blandness is no fault of Hiroshi Koizumi, who does his best with the shallow material he's given here. I can say even less about Hidemi (Setsuko Wakayama), Tsukioka's girlfriend. Unlike Emiko in the original film, whose actions had an important effect on the plot, Hidemi, whose job is that of a radio operator for the tuna company, which is owned by her father, does absolutely nothing except talk about how she much loves Tsukioka, tell him that he has courage, worry about him whenever there's danger nearby, and inform Kobayashi about what women want (I'll get to that in a second). Big deal. Again, about as bland a female character as you can get. Not bad or annoying, just unmemorable as hell.

If there's a character in this movie whom I can honestly say I kind of like and enjoy, it's Kobayashi (Minoru Chiaki), the other tuna pilot and Tsukioka's buddy. I'm not exactly sure why, since Kobayashi doesn't have much more to him than the other characters. I guess I'm just a sucker for these type of heavyset characters who are, for the most part, like big teddy bears. Kobayashi is serious when he needs to be and, like Tsukioka, is willing to do anything to help the company that he works for, but he also comes across as a big loveable lug to his friends and coworkers. I also kind of smirk when Tsukioka tells him at the beginning of the film when he finds him on Iwato Island that he was able to do so because of Hidemi and the other female radio operator, causing Kobayashi to groan, "You mean I owe my life to those two annoying women?" I don't know why that makes me smile but it does. There's something of a subplot involving Kobayashi's search for a wife, mainly due to the fact Tsukioka and Hidemi are engaged to be married, which leads to him being referred to as "Mr. Groom" by his coworkers. This doesn't become part of the story until after the company's headquarters have been moved to Hokkaido and even then, it doesn't amount to anything, although it does come in at one very inappropriate moment that I'll talk about shortly. That subplot, unfortunately, is a problem with Kobayashi for me because, even though I do kind of like him, especially when compared to the other characters, he's not developed enough for me to care about his search for a woman. So, when he's asking Hidemi about what women supposedly want (which, according to her, is insignificant stuff like handbags, watches, and such), I'm thinking, "Why should I care about this?" Moreover, when Hidemi looks inside this little black book that he accidentally leaves behind and sees a picture of his possible future wife, I was initially confused because, given how Hidemi smiles at the picture, I was wondering if this girl was somebody I'd seen before and should know. I thought that she might be the other radio operator that was working with Hidemi at the beginning of the film. Or maybe Hidemi just thinks the girl looks pretty? Who knows? Again, it doesn't matter because, after that scene, Kobayashi attempts to keep Godzilla on the frozen island of Kamiko until the air force can arrive to deal with him by distracting him with his plane and this ultimately leads to the plane getting hit with Godzilla's atomic breath and crashing into the side of the mountain. However, Kobayashi's unintended sacrifice creates an avalanche and gives the air force a plan to defeat Godzilla, so it wasn't vain. But, that said, as in his search for love, I didn't like Kobayashi nearly enough to really care when he died so his death had no impact on me in the end.

Yamaji, on the right.
There's even less to the supporting characters in the film than there are the main ones. Yamaji (Yukio Kasama), the president of the fish company, comes across as a benevolent boss who has the utmost faith in his men, especially Tsukioka and Kobayashi, and treats them well, as well as worries about the impact Godzilla's attack may have on his and the other men's livelihood. There's even less to say about the company's branch manager, Shibeki (Sonosuke Sawamura, who looks remarkably American, I might add) other than he's elated when the company quickly manages to get back on its feet after losing the Osaka branch and he jokingly promises to be a matchmaker for Kobayashi in Hokkaido. Yoshio Tsuchiya, an eccentric actor who, like Hiroshi Koizumi, would become a familiar face in these films, makes his first appearance in the series here as Tajima, a member of the defense corps and an old college friend of Tsukioka's. He leads the final attacks against Godzilla on Kamiko Island and is the one who describes to the men how dangerous the final phase of the plan to bury Godzilla in the ice and snow will be. Ren Yamamoto, who played the role of Masaji in the original Godzilla, has a small role here as the commander of the landing craft during the final attack. Speaking of which, another returning actor from the first film is the renowned Takashi Shimura, who reprises his role as Dr. Yamane for one scene. It's little more than a glorified cameo and Shimura's heart doesn't seem to be entirely in it (in fact, he looks downright fatigued), which isn't surprising since he has nothing to do other than give the authorities the grim news that, without the Oxygen Destroyer, there's no way to kill this second Godzilla, show them a film of the first Godzilla's attack on Tokyo the previous year, and advise them to use flares to lead the monster out to sea, away from any cities in his path. Still, though, it's nice to see the character again and it's also good to know that, at this point, they thought enough about continuity to bring him back, even if it was very briefly. One last character I want to briefly mention is Dr. Tadokoro (Masao Shimizu), a zoologist who identifies the second monster as Anguirus, informs the authorities of the creature's nature and, after Dr. Yamane abruptly disappears from the film, briefly advises the military on what to do about trying to find Godzilla. While, like everyone else, there isn't much to him, I always enjoy the wise old scientists who often appear in these movies and have all of the answers for the leads when it comes to the monsters. They're such a staple of the genre that you just have to smile whenever you see them.

To me, there are two things a Godzilla movie should never be: forgettable and boring, and Godzilla Raids Again is a perfect example of one that is very much both. In addition to the fact that I never saw this film until I was 19, it's so unremarkable and bland that, even though I've watched it a few times over the years before I sat down to do this review, I would always struggle to remember specific scenes and events from it. Therefore, I must apologize for any mistakes I've already made and any that I've yet to make because everything about this film, from the story, the characters, and so on are so forgettable the movie as a whole begins leaving my brain as soon as I get done watching it. Moreover, this is also up there as one of the most boring Godzilla movies ever made. For one, there are very long stretches where nothing is happening or, at the very least, nothing interesting is going on, and you're just waiting for it to get exciting. This is mainly the case for the stretch of the movie after Godzilla and Anguirus' battle in Osaka. After that, Godzilla disappears from the movie for a good while and instead, you're stuck watching these uninteresting characters adapt to their relocation to Hokkaido and actually throw a joyful company party! It's not uncommon in these movies for there to be long stretches where Godzilla and the other monsters aren't onscreen but for the most part, they manage to keep your attention by having characters that you give a shit about talking about and doing interesting stuff. Not here. What, am I supposed to be interested in Tsukioka and Hidemi talking about what might happen to Osaka, Hidemi telling Tsukioka that he has courage, or Tsukioka meeting up with his college buddies, whom we've never heard of beforehand, in Hokkaido and partaking in a jovial company party? And let's not forget about how much I don't care about Kobayashi's search for a bride. Speaking of which, the pacing of this film just sucks. Not only are there long stretches where you're sitting there, bored out of your skull, waiting for something to happen but also, in the middle of sequences that are meant to be exciting or suspenseful, we're abruptly interrupted by something else for a few minutes and we have to wait to get back to the "action." For instance, that scene I've mentioned where Kobayashi shows up and asks Hidemi what women want? That comes right in the middle of Tsukioka and the military's search for Godzilla! Granted, it wasn't that exciting anyway but still, you don't interrupt a sequence like that for a scene where  Kobayashi asks for suggestions of gifts to get for his would-be bride. That's not how you build a sense of excitement and anticipation in the viewer. The same goes for the climactic battle with Godzilla on Kamiko Island, where they've managed to bury Godzilla up to his shoulders in ice and snow and yet, because they feel it's not working well enough, they actually head back to the base to come up with a different strategy and more effective weapons. Okay, first off, like I said, Godzilla was thoroughly buried when they left, so I don't know why they felt it wasn't working, and two, yet again, the action gets interrupted for a few minutes before we can finally get back to it. As Mr. Spock would say, "Most illogical."

And third, the reason why I keep using the term "action scenes" loosely, putting quotation marks around it and so on, is because, instead of being exciting or thrilling, these scenes lack pacing as well and are mainly just monotonous and repetitive. The "car chase" where Tsukioka and Kobayashi attempt to help the police catch some of the criminals who are attempting to escape in a gasoline truck is very slow and plodding, qualifying it for the most boring car chase ever put to film, and even when Godzilla and Anguirus are onscreen, the excitement doesn't pick up that much. Their big battle in Osaka is the big centerpiece and best part of the film, as it should be, but that said, it's still not much to write home about since all they do is struggle with each other and throw each other around until Godzilla finally decides he's had enough and kills Anguirus. For one, this isn't as campy and fun as the battles that Godzilla would fight in later films since there are no wrestling or judo moves to be found and for another, you can only watch him and Anguirus struggle with each other for so long until it gets a little monotonous. As I'll go into later, there are indeed some very good parts to the battle but overall, it gets a bit tedious after a while and the same goes for the climactic confrontation between the military and Godzilla on Kamiko Island, where they attempt to bury him in the ice and snow. As I've said before, there's no pacing here. At the beginning of the fight, all they do is fly around and drop bombs on Godzilla, Kobayashi ends up unintentionally sacrificing himself and, as a result, gives the others an idea on how to defeat the monster. After that, we have the moment where they inexplicably stop trying to bury Godzilla with the bombs because they feel it's not working well, for some reason, they go back to base to come up with a new strategy, and even during what's supposed to be a thrilling final attack, all they do is shoot at the mountainsides over and over again until they finally manage to bury Godzilla completely. It's just not as exciting as it should be and by this point, I'm still watching the movie simply to get it over with. These are the main reasons why I'm not a fan of Godzilla Raids Again. It's just lackluster in every sense of the word.

Although they may have studied under the same director, the tone of Godzilla Raids Again is another example of how Motoyoshi Oda's directing skill was nowhere near the level of Ishiro Honda's. The feeling of foreboding and doom that pervaded the original Godzilla is nowhere to be found here. You'd think it would be even more palpable since there are now two monsters threatening Japan, but nope. Not only are the scenes where the characters face the threat or worry about what might happen not effective, but the biggest failure comes in the scene following the destruction of Osaka. When Godzilla destroyed Tokyo in the first film, we saw the aftermath of this utter devastation and how it shattered the lives of hundreds of people, either by actually killing them, leaving others suffering from radiation burns and radioactive poisoning, or, most heart-wrenching of all, leaving some alive to mourn their lost loved ones. Here, nobody's all that broken up about what's happened to Osaka. In fact, Mr. Yamaji and Shibeki are initially more concerned about their factory having been destroyed and even that is immediately forgotten when Yamaji says that he'll rebuild it and that for now, the Hokkaido branch will be the headquarters. And as if that weren't enough, in the scene after that where the characters come together in the now ruined main offices to discuss what to do next, everybody is surprisingly chipper, going as far as to make jokes and laugh. It seems as if the destruction of Osaka and the fact that they have to relocate is more of an inconvenience to them than a major tragedy. Their attitude is basically, "Yeah, Godzilla and Anguirus completely leveled the city and killed who knows how many people. What a couple of assholes." At the beginning of this part of the film, Oda shoots a tracking shot of the aftermath that's similar to the one Honda did for the original film but, due to the tone, it doesn't have any of its predecessor's power. In A Critical History and Filmography of Toho's Godzilla Series, David Kalat talks about how this peculiar optimism is actually in line with a change in the allegory, stating that if Godzilla was about the horrors of war, Godzilla Raids Again is about the process of rebuilding after the war. I kind of see that, since it's undeniable that the Japanese are very resilient in moving on after catastrophes such as Hiroshima and Nagasaki, as well as the enormous earthquake of 2011, but still, I don't think they should be this upbeat immediately after such a tragedy. And plus, even Kalat admits that, allegorical context aside, this attitude damages what could have been an effective way to show how something like this would affect ordinary, working class people, rather than the fairly wealthy and scientists, who can deal with it in many ways, as was the case with the characters in the original film. Even when Kobayashi is killed near the end, the mourning of his friends doesn't last very long and, as I've said many time, the blandness of the characters makes it impossible for how they respond to it to leave any emotional impact on you. This is yet another area where the film absolutely falls flat.

Unlike his predecessor, who was more like an angry god exacting nature's revenge for the creation of the atomic bomb, this second Godzilla is portrayed more like a large, enraged animal who mainly just defends himself from those who act against him, be they Anguirus or the military. He's not completely mindless, given how it's said that he hates bright lights such as flares because it reminds him of the atomic bomb and the transformation it put him through. I don't know how they know this little tidbit, since the only thing that was made clear about Godzilla and lights in the original film was that shining them in his face would only make him angry, but it's apparently true since Godzilla does indeed follow the flares and heads back to Osaka when the industrial complex gets set ablaze. Of course, that could be more animalistic curiosity than anything else, especially since those flares end up attracting to Anguirus to Osaka as well and they never said anything about him having memories of the atomic bomb (although they do say that it indeed awakened and affected him as well). If that's the explanation they're giving, though, I'll just go along with it (although I don't know why they never use this technique again). Regardless, like I said, Godzilla mainly acts like an animal more than anything else here and, if you think about it, the only reason he destroys and kills a bunch of people is out of defense or by accident. When he's first seen scuffling with Anguirus on Iwato Island, it seems like Anguirus is the one attacking him and Godzilla is defending himself. When Godzilla appears near Osaka, he just stands up and sort of looks around before he's led away by the flares and while he does head straight for the city once the industrial complex gets set on fire, he doesn't seem like he's intentionally causing damage, save for when he strikes back at the military when they go after him. And when Anguirus shows up, Godzilla once again appears to be on the defensive and knows that he has no choice but to fight him again, which he does and eventually wins. During the last act of the movie, when the military attacks Godzilla when he appears on Kamiko Island, he yet again is not doing anything to bother anybody and only attacks and kills some people, including Kobayashi, because he's feeling threatened. While audiences may feel a bit of subtle sympathy for the Godzilla in the first film due to subtext, I think it's possible to overtly feel bad for this second one here since it comes across like everyone and everything is pushing him around and agitating him for no reason. Okay, yes, we are told that he destroyed one of the company's fishing boats but still, we never see this so who knows what happened? Maybe they accidentally rammed into Godzilla or vice versa? And finally, another interesting question is how exactly is this second Godzilla related to the first one? While there's no definitive answer there, I like to think that he's his brother and that the two of them were together when the atomic bomb changed them (remember in the original film, Dr. Yamane said that the first Godzilla was probably living in those deep, underwater crevices with others of his species). After the change, they probably got separated somehow and they went in different directions, with the first Godzilla taking up residence near Odo Island while this one did so near Iwato Island, having no idea that the recently awakened and aggressive Anguirus was living near there as well. At least, that's my own fanboy theory.

Because they knew that Godzilla would be battling another monster in this film, the suit-makers modified the Godzilla suit (the first of many, many times this would be done throughout the series' run) to allow Haruo Nakajima more freedom of movement and to perform the violent fighting moves required of him. It works pretty well. This Godzilla moves more fluidly, as well as a bit quicker, than the first one did in the original movie. The way Nakajima moves during Godzilla's battle with Anguirus is quite animal-like and he no doubt was now able to use the movements that he saw when he visited the zoo during the making of the first film, which hadn't been possible in the heavy suit he wore beforehand. While this more animalistic-style of fighting isn't as entertaining as the wrestling match-like battles that Godzilla would participate in later, it's certainly more realistic and I can't fault the filmmakers for making Godzilla and Anguirus' battle come across as what it would really look like if two enormous animals such as these were duking it out. However, I'm not a fan of the way this Godzilla suit looks overall. It's mostly similar to the suit in the first film but it has some very noticeable modifications that I don't care for. First off, I know they had to remove a lot of the suit's mass so Nakajima could move more freely but still, Godzilla looks way too thin in this movie for my tastes. I shouldn't be too critical since this was before they would get into the groove and start making really good suits for virtually every film but regardless, he should still have a little more mass to him than this, as would be the case in later suits that were also pretty thin. The spines still look good and so does everything else, save for the head, but I just don't like that he's so thin. However, let's into my biggest problem with this design, which, as I just mentioned, is the head. From the side, it looks okay but, when you look at it straight on, it looks a little awkward to me. As you can see, the face is very cat-like and while that kind of look would be well pulled off decades later in the second series of films, it doesn't look right here. I like that he still has fangs but the eyebrows are too big and the same goes for the ears, which are more prominent here than they were before. It makes Godzilla look too much like a common housecat instead of a fierce monster. But you know, I'd take the way the actual suit's head looks as opposed to the awful-looking puppet heads used throughout the film any day. Those things are terrible. Not only are they so fake that they hurt even my suspension of disbelief but they're hideous, with their nasty-looking, crooked teeth and their dead, expressionless eyes! The way they look from the front is especially bad. Fortunately, you don't see them from the front that often but still, damn. I don't mean to harp all over the suit makers and technicians because I know they did what they could given the time crunch they were under but I still think that the second Godzilla suit could have looked better.

One thing I was always curious about is whether this Godzilla started out with the deep, threatening roar that his relative had in the original film or if, since it was a new one, this was the introduction of the high-pitched screech that has sense become the most well known cry associated with the monster. For those who've never seen the film, it's the latter. In actuality, of his two main roars from the first film, he only uses a less terrifying version of the howl he had there; you never hear that snarling, angry growl in this film. More often than not in this film, he uses the roars that sound like a loud snort and a deep bark, as well as the roar that would later become his main one in the early part of the second series. And, even though it's not as final a defeat for him, this Godzilla does let out that same "death" cry when he's nearly completely buried in the ice that his predecessor did before the Oxygen Destroyer ultimately killed him.

The most notable thing about Godzilla Raids Again is the introduction of the second giant monster, or kaiju, that Toho ever created, Anguirus, who has since become a fan favorite. That step-cousin that I mentioned in my Godzilla Introduction post absolutely loved Anguirus, saying that he was his favorite monster outside of Godzilla himself. I've always thought that Anguirus was okay but I never thought he was awesome or anything because, as we'll see when we get to the other films involving him, he tends to get his ass kicked a lot. In any case, while he and Godzilla would become very close allies in later years, here they're bitter enemies, mainly due to Anguirus' aggressive nature. You can sort of think of him as a vicious dog defending his backyard, a dog that's so territorial that he'll go after others even when they're nowhere near said backyard (trust me, I know that from experience), as is the case with their battle in Osaka. When we first see the monsters, they're already in a scuffle, with Godzilla fending off the ferocious dinosaur until the two of them end up tumbling into the ocean. Later on in the film, Anguirus shows up in Osaka, having been attracted by the flares that were originally meant to lure Godzilla out into the sea, and, upon seeing Godzilla, he goes on the attack again and the two immediately resume their fighting. Even though I said that in the later films, Anguirus tends to get the crap beaten out of him, in this first appearance he proves to be a formidable foe for Godzilla and one that doesn't go down easily as well. He's pretty relentless in how he just keeps coming at Godzilla, struggling with him, biting and scratching him, and lunging at him quite quickly. That's one thing you got to give Anguirus. He won't back down from a fight. However, this tenaciousness and unwillingness to give up ends up kind of being his downfall because Godzilla is eventually able to overpower and, apparently, kill him. I don't know for sure if the Anguirus that appears in the later films and becomes Godzilla's ally is the same as the one here or if, like Godzilla, there was a second one. It's never made clear. In any case, it's interesting to think about how Godzilla's battles with other monsters would become the big, thrilling climaxes of the later films but his first battle here with Anguirus takes place in the middle of the film and, moreover, it ends with Godzilla defeating his opponent and moving on. While later films would typically have at least two battles, with the first being in the middle of the film, there would never be another case like this where Godzilla permanently defeats his foe when there's still at least half of the movie left to go so, in some ways, even though he was Toho's second monster creation, it feels like Anguirus got the shaft and was never allowed to have his big climactic fight with Godzilla. He may be a fan favorite but, even from the beginning, Toho tended to view him as something of a throwaway character.

Anguirus' design is, in some ways, just as classic as Godzilla's. Fundamentally, he's based on the dinosaur, Ankylosaurus, with the fact that he's an armored, four-legged dinosaur whose main line of defense and attack is his tough hide (which, along with his head, is strong enough to resist Godzilla's atomic breath for the most part), horns, and powerful tail, and he's even initially referred to as Ankylosaurus when he's being described to the military, with the moniker Anguirus simply said to be another name for him. However, also like Godzilla, Anguirus is actually a mixture of different types of dinosaurs. While his overall form is that of an Ankylosaurus, the horns on the top of his head and the large one on the tip of his nose bring to mind dinosaurs like the Triceratops and Styracosaurus. A normal Ankylosaurus had a fairly flat face whereas Anguirus' is much more narrow and pointed, like a crocodile and unlike the plant-eating dinosaur that he's based on, Anguirus is definitely a carnivore, given the sharp, jagged teeth in his mouth. While Ankylosaurs had bony plates on their backs for protection, Anguirus has something like a bony shell on his back that's covered with a lot of long, sharp spikes and, instead of a tail club (although he would get one in Godzilla: Final Wars), his tail is covered in more spikes, with the tip having one as well. It would be easy to chalk up these differences to being the effect of the atomic bomb on him but when his nature and past is described to the authorities from a book on dinosaurs, the drawing you see there is exactly what Anguirus already looks like, confirming this is indeed just a fictionalized version of an existing dinosaur. By the way, going back to his shell, there are a lot of images from the film, which I guess could have been publicity stills (I also this on some American lobby cards), where it looks as if the bottom half has been tore free from his body and is hanging off. When I saw those images as a kid, I always wondered exactly how that happened, if Godzilla ripped the crap out of them or if Anguirus himself did that by accident or what. But, that never happens in the actual movie, so I don't know what the deal with those images is. It's said in this film that Anguirus' brain extends down into his chest and abdominal areas and is given as the reason why he's able to move and react so quickly despite his size and why Godzilla has such a hard time with him during their big fight. However, as cool as his look and functionality are, one thing about Anguirus that has always gotten on my nerves is his roar, which is this loud, honking noise that has a very, very whiny texture to it. I've always joked that Anguirus is the whiniest monster ever because of the way he sounds. I don't think it's as annoying in this first film with him as it would later become but still, you try listening to that, "eeyaun" sound that Anguirus makes before you get tired. Weirdly enough, my step-cousin even liked that about him so I guess fandom, like love, is blind.

Anguirus is played by Katsumi Tezuka, a stuntman and suit actor who was much older than Haruo Nakajima and who had assisted the latter in portraying Godzilla in the first film, although Nakajima has always maintained that everything seen in that film was done by him and him alone. Regardless of the questionable extent of Tezuka's work in the first film, he definitely rose to the task of playing Anguirus here and excelled at acting like an aggressive, four-legged animal that's ready to attack anything and everything that moves. In fact, Tezuka moves so skillfully and swiftly during Anguirus' battle with Godzilla, which is especially impressive when you take into account the fact that, in order to simulate the feel of large creatures, the actors had to do everything faster normal so it would look natural when the over-cranked film was played back at normal speed, it makes me wonder if Nakajima is telling the truth when he says that Tezuka wasn't up to the rigors of acting in the Godzilla suit. I know how restrictive and heavy the original Godzilla suit was but I would think that playing Anguirus would be even more physically demanding since you have to get down on all fours and come across as natural and animalistic while moving. Moreover, when the Godzilla and Anguirus suits were sent over to Hollywood to be used in a film that ended up not being made (more on that later), those who saw it firsthand said that the latter suit was so heavy that they couldn't even take it out of the crate it was in. It sure sounds like Tezuka was more than up to the task of working inside heavy, hot suits to me, although he would eventually beg out of it by the mid-sixties due to his age and act more as an advisor. In the end, though, as much respect as I have for Nakajima, I do question some of the stuff that he's said about Tezuka since you only have to watch his performance as Anguirus here to realize that he was quite capable of holding his own.

Yeah, these don't look like puppets at
all.
Given the time crunch that they were under, it's impressive that Eiji Tsuburaya and his team were able to pull off as many effects shots and sequences as they did. The fact that most of them still look really good is even more amazing. The miniatures and models are, once again, very well designed, the optical and matting effects used to place Godzilla and Anguirus in the same shots as fleeing extras are just as convincing as they were before, the suits look pretty good during the battle scenes, and there are some shots that very convincingly make them come across as giant creatures. One shot that is particularly impressive is of extras running away from a burning industrial complex, whose fire is spreading towards an enormous fuel tank that eventually does explode. But, for all the good that I can say about the effects work, there are times where you can see the repercussions of trying to do this kind of stuff in very little time. The most notable technical error in the film consists of several moments during Godzilla and Anguirus' climactic battle in Osaka where a camera operator accidentally under-cranked the camera instead of over-cranking it, resulting in extremely fast, unnatural movement when it was played back at normal speed. As jarring and sometimes silly-looking as that looks, they couldn't afford to re-film it due to the extreme time constraints so they had no choice but to leave it. I've heard that Tsuburaya, who was an extreme perfectionist, wasn't too thrilled about that mistake and the fact that it couldn't be corrected. In addition, not only do the Godzilla puppet heads used throughout the film look particularly bad and unconvincing but there are also some moments where some less than stellar puppet heads are used to represent Anguirus as well and the close-up shots of the two of them biting at each other look just above an average puppet show, which is probably why the effects guys stop using this technique after a point. Another bad effect involving Godzilla himself is when you first see him on Shinko Island at the beginning of the film's final act. Even though it's a very high overhead shot, you can tell that it's nothing more than a model for the reason that it doesn't move at all. Like James Rolfe said in his Godzilla-thon series of video reviews, it looks like they just filmed some footage of that classic Godzilla toy that I showed you in my introduction post (it actually was a wind-up toy that was supposed to be in motion when it was filmed but the movements didn't look good, so they thought it would be better if it stood completely still). And finally, while the models of the military vehicles and fighter jets look good enough for the most part, there are a couple of extremely wonky shots where one of the jets is moving from the right side of the screen to the left while staying in a fixed sideways angle, as if it's being pulled on a wire that's traveling from right to left (which is quite possibly the case). I couldn't find an image of this odd moment and even if I did, I don't know if a still picture would get across how bad it looks. If you see the movie, you'll know exactly what I'm talking about. I'm not trying to sound like a hypocrite by criticizing some of the effects in this movie when I defended those in the original. Like I said, a good chunk of the effects work here is still superb but, unfortunately, others do show evidence of the extremely short shooting schedule that this film had.

The first major scene in the film (if you can call it that since not much really happens) takes place just over eight minutes into it, when Tsukioka meets up with Kobayashi on Iwato Island after having searched a little bit for him when he heard that he was having engine trouble. The two of them talk while warming themselves around a campfire for a little bit when their jovial demeanors inexplicably become more serious. I don't know why, since they don't hear anything just yet, but I guess that they can just sense when something isn't right. In any case, the two of them look up and we hear Godzilla's roar before seeing a shot of his head looming over the rock wall above them. The two of them run to hide inside the nearby enclosed chasm (note how compressed and claustrophobic this whole sequence feels, which is another sign of what a cheap, quick cash-in this movie was) as we get a glimpse of Anguirus' head as the two of them begin to struggle. Tsukioka identifies one of the monsters as Godzilla and, as the two men attempt to take cover and shield themselves from the falling debris, we see a wide shot of Godzilla and Anguirus facing off, with the latter rushing ahead and getting right in front of Godzilla (like I said earlier, note here how graceful Katsumi Tezuka is able to move inside that very heavy and cumbersome suit). Apparently, Tsukioka and Kobayashi are seeing this as well, even though I don't know how they can from where they're currently positioned. In any case, the monsters grapple with each other very briefly before falling off the nearby cliff and into the ocean, allowing Tsukioka and Kobayashi to make their escape.

When Godzilla is reported near Osaka, a general alarm is sounded throughout the city and all power is turned off, plunging it into total darkness so that the flares that are meant to lure him away will be as effective as possible. The military gets into position with their battle vehicles in order to battle Godzilla in case the flares don't work as the fighter jets head for the ocean. It's not too long before Godzilla's presence is signified by a bright, glowing light, which is followed by him sticking his head out, diving back under to move in closer, and sticking his head back out again. As he heads for shore, looking around curiously while doing so, the fighter jets release their flares into the air and it's not too long before he notices them. Godzilla apparently stares at the flares for a long time while Osaka is being evacuated before he turns and starts following them out to sea, knocking a lighthouse over with his tail in the process. Everyone is naturally relieved to see that he's leaving. Little do they know that trouble is brewing nearby. A group of convicts being transported via a prison bus manages to very easily knock out the guards in the back with them and use one of their pistols to shoot out the lock of the back door. When the bus pulls over, the criminals jump out and attempt to escape by using the cover of darkness from the blackout. Three of them are caught by the guards before they can get very far but another three manage to make it to a gasoline truck that they use to try to ensure their escape. At that moment, the guards come across Tsukioka and Kobayashi, who are driving to join Yamaji at the factory, and commandeer their vehicle, telling them to follow the gasoline truck. Tsukioka obliges and this leads into what could be the slowest and most unexciting car chase ever. Both vehicles, including Tsukioka's car, just plod along across the roads like turtles and even when a police car joins the chase, the pace doesn't pick up at all. The chase eventually ends in an industrial complex where the criminals crash the gasoline truck because... well, I don't know why they crash. For no reason, they just start screaming and go right through a barrier, one that says NO SMOKING, before they hit a curb and bounce, causing the gasoline tank to explode. Were they too stupid to know that in order to stop, they have to hit the brake? Morons.

Hur?
In any case, the ensuing explosion and fire is quickly seen by Godzilla, whom you would think, by this point, would be so far out at sea that he would have no way of spotting it but, judging from his POV shot and the more telling shot afterward where he turns back around, the fighter jets managed to lure him only about thirty feet from where he was when they started doing so, if that. Upon seeing the fire, Godzilla completely ignores the flares and begins heading back for the city, prompting the military to fire on him when he comes ashore with their missile launchers and tanks, as well as send in the fighter jets to aid in the attack. As per usual, Godzilla isn't phased by all of this ammo being poured into him and, by the way he just looks around and doesn't seem to even sense the missiles and shells hitting him, seems more curious and confused than anything else. That's when you get that shot of an awkwardly moving plane, which Godzilla blasts with his atomic breath and sends crashing into the sea with an explosion. This is when Anguirus arrives, coming ashore at the same spot where Godzilla did so, and honks a challenge at him. Godzilla immediately goes on the defensive upon seeing his rival, snarling at him while inadvertently crushing some warehouses and toppling some moored ships with his tail, and then, with the military continuing to fire on them, the two monsters rush each other and the fight is on. As I said before, there isn't much to say about the fight itself since it's much more animalistic as opposed to the oversized judo and wrestling matches you would see in later films and all Godzilla and Anguirus really do is continuously struggle with each other. You see them bite and scratch at each other, with Anguirus trying to bite Godzilla's hand as well as his neck, and Godzilla blasts Anguirus right in the face with his atomic breath, which doesn't seem to affect him at all, but it's mostly just a bunch of grappling. That said, there are some great shots of the two of them battling amongst some miniature buildings while the fire continues to rage out of control behind them and you can see the damage that they're doing to the city as well, with the fire spreading due to Godzilla's atomic breath and engulfing houses as well as causing a large fuel tank to explode, in addition to the property damage they themselves cause by either smashing through buildings or throwing each other into them. There is some good stuff during the part of the battle that begins in the middle of the industrial complex and starts to move to the residential areas. You actually see Godzilla do his first battle stance before he and Anguirus resume their fight here and the parts of the fight that were accidentally filmed with the camera being under-cranked may look bizarre and unintentionally funny at points but it does succeed in bringing some energy to the fight. Plus, this is where the two of them really start to do some property damage by flinging each other into building after building and I have to commend the model-makers for creating some many well-designed miniatures for the suit actors to crush.

At one point, Godzilla and Anguirus fall into this manmade river, causing a tidal wave that floods the lower sections of the town, including a subway station where three of the remaining criminals end up being drowned. Police headquarters also has to be evacuated since the battle is moving closer to their location. After everyone gets out safely, they watch as Godzilla and Anguirus stare each other down and circle around each other near Osaka Castle. They cause more destruction as they continue battling and two things start to become clear: one, Godzilla is determined to defeat his foe so he won't bother him anymore, and two, Anguirus is running out of energy. As they get right in front of the pagoda and grapple again, Godzilla begins to overpower Anguirus, whose cries start to become more of pain than of challenge and tenacity, and he then sinks his teeth right into Anguirus' neck and refuses to let go. As Anguirus screams and honks in pain, Osaka Castle begins to crumble underneath the monsters' girth and ultimately falls to pieces when Godzilla shoves Anguirus right through it. Anguirus actually tries to run away, finally realizing that he's outmatched, but Godzilla isn't having it. He catches up to Anguirus and bites into his neck again, digging his teeth into the flesh until blood starts to ooze out (obviously, since it's black and white, it's not that gruesome but regardless, you wouldn't see actual blood in a Godzilla movie for a long time after this). After severely wounding Anguirus, Godzilla pushes him into the shallows behind and once he stops moving, he finishes him off by firing his atomic breath, setting him ablaze (I don't know why he's now suddenly vulnerable to his atomic breath but, nevertheless, if you look at the base of Anguirus' tail after he's been set on fire, you can see it move just a little bit more before he finally expires). With his foe dead and most of Osaka still smoldering, Godzilla heads back out to sea. All in all, it's not bad for Godzilla's first battle with another monster and there are some good parts to it but, like I said earlier, it does get a little monotonous when all they do is struggle and bite and claw at each other, despite how fun it can be to see them crush so many buildings by throwing each other into them.

The rather lackluster finale of the movie begins when, after hearing a report that he destroyed a fishing boat, Tsukioka searches for Godzilla and eventually spots him heading towards Kamiko Island. Since he only has just enough fuel to make it back to base, Kobayashi tells Tsukioka to let him take over for him in keeping a close eye on Godzilla until the military can arrive to take care of him. As the air force pilots prepare to take off to attack Godzilla with bombs, along with some battleships for a ground attack, Tsukioka continues circling over the monster who, as I mentioned earlier, is just standing there as still as a statue, until Kobayashi arrives to take over. When he returns to base, Tsukioka informs the pilots of the best way to engage Godzilla and, upon formulating their plan, they depart for Kamiko Island. As Kobayashi continues circling Godzilla, he sees the monster turn back for the shore. In order to keep him on the island just a little bit longer, Kobayashi flies very close to Godzilla's head in order to distract him but, even though he does manage to momentarily distract him as the fighter jets and battleships approach ever closer, Godzilla starts heading for the ocean again. Kobayashi once again buzzes by his head, distracting him long enough for the fighter jets to arrive and begin the attack. The jets drop their payloads of bombs at Godzilla but, as has been the care before, it's more of a nuisance to him than a threat and all he does is continuously look at the explosions going off around him and look back up at the jets. Both the fighter pilots and Kobayashi realize that the attack isn't doing anything and so, the latter tries to help as best as he can and flies at Godzilla yet again. This time, though, Godzilla's patience with Kobayashi runs out and he blasts his plane with his atomic breath. With his plane's wing on fire, Kobayashi tries to fly to safety but is unable to gain enough altitude and crashes into the side of the mountain, dying instantly as a result. The crash, however, causes an avalanche that rains down tons of ice and snow, catching the attention of both the pilots and Godzilla. Realizing what they can, Tsukioka tells Tajima, whom he's flying with, to bomb the mountainsides to create an even bigger avalanche. Tajima then orders his squadron to do so but, after bombing for only a little bit, they decide for some reason that missiles would work better than bombs and return to base to reload, even though, when we get back to Kamiko Island for the finale, Godzilla is buried up to his shoulders in ice. If they had kept bombing, they would have eventually buried completely, making this interruption in the action feel like nothing more than a cheap way to pad the movie out more.

As Godzilla struggles to free himself out of the ice he's almost totally buried in (why doesn't he just melt it with his atomic breath?), a battleship arrives at the shore and deploys a landing party who intend to use gasoline barrels to create a barrier of fire to keep him contained within the center of the island. What, now Godzilla doesn't like fire, when he earlier he was attracted to it and any other bright lights? Lack of consistency much? Godzilla gradually frees himself from the ice as the soldiers slowly but surely roll the gasoline barrels into place. Seeing that Godzilla is almost completely free, the landing party commander orders everyone back onboard the ship. The soldiers clumsily run through the snow, tripping and falling as they do so, in order to get back on the ship as Godzilla completely frees himself from the ice. The battleship manages to move away from the shore just as a single plane shows up to try to distract Godzilla the same way that Kobayashi did (like that's a good idea). The battleship then uses its turret guns to ignite the gasoline barrels and, sure enough, for some reason, Godzilla won't go near the flaming barrels and remains in the center of the island. The fighter jets arrive and so begins a long, drawn-out battle where they continuously fly over Godzilla and fire their missiles into the mountainsides, sending waves after waves of ice and snow down towards him that gradually builds up around and encases his body. Godzilla manages to blast several jets with his atomic breath but, like Kobayashi, they end up crashing into the mountainside and adding to the avalanche. He also catches one in his hand and another simply crashes into the mountainside because it got too close but, for the most part, all the battle consists of is continuous firing at the mountains and shots of ice raining down the sides. You can see during this sequence that they repeat some shots a couple of times, no doubt due to the low budget and short shooting schedule. As Godzilla gets buried up to his head and lets out the same mournful cry that his predecessor did in the previous film, I feel downright bad for him because, as I said earlier, it felt like he never intentionally caused any death or destruction here save for possibly that fishing boat he sank. He does try to stop another wave of ice with his atomic breath here but it doesn't seem to work at all, probably because he's too weakened by the cold (maybe that's why he didn't use it beforehand). Flying his own fighter jet, as he had been throughout the battle, Tsukioka makes one last pass over Godzilla's head and fires at the mountainside again, triggering the avalanche that finally buries Godzilla completely. After having finally defeated the monster, Tsukioka silently tells Kobayashi that they've won before flying back, ending the movie.

While he may not have had the same directing skill as Ishiro Honda, Motoyoshi Oda, for all of the criticisms that I've given him throughout this review, does manage to create some nice images and moments throughout the film. When Dr. Yamane shows the authorities some film footage of the first Godzilla destroying Tokyo, the scene is completely silent save for the sound of the film projector and there's a bit of a somber and foreboding feeling to it as you just watch the film of the original attack on Tokyo in nothing but silence. While it could have been done better, the same feeling applies to the shots of the fighter jets flying across the blacked out Osaka when Godzilla is reported nearby. Again, the scene is completely silent save for the sounds of the planes and it makes you wonder if this is what it was like during wartime air raids. When the fire that the criminals inadvertently started is raging out of control, and is added onto even more so by the destruction that Godzilla and Anguirus are causing during their battle, there's a moment where Hidemi, while staying at her house, looks out the window and sees what looks like a mushroom cloud-like formation that's been created by all of the smoke. That shot was actually quite well done and looked perfectly foreboding and menacing; in fact, it's something that you would have expected Honda himself to have come up with. I also like the shots you get during the Hokkaido section of a couple of people's faces, namely Shibeki and later Hidemi, framed in the middle of rings of frost that are on the outside of some windows they look out. There's just something very charming and poetic about the way those shots look. And finally, even though it's obviously a painting, I do like the ending shot of Kamiko Island after the battle has been won. It looks very beautiful and the music that accompanies it makes for a nice enough way to end the film. So, regardless of everything else that I feel is wrong with this movie, I can't deny that Oda did have talent in certain aspects.

Speaking of the music, let's talk about that now. Like Ishiro Honda, Akira Ifukube wasn't available and so, Toho hired fledgling composer Masaru Sato, who had been studying under Fumio Hayasaka, Akira Kurosawa's go-to composer at the time, and had even wrapped up some scores that had been left unfinished when his mentor suddenly died in 1955 (interestingly, Sato himself would end up replacing Hayasaka as Kurosawa's favorite composer for the next decade). Godzilla Raids Again was the first movie whose score Sato created completely by himself and, unfortunately, his inexperience in doing so is quite obvious here (even he later admitted that). Sato would return to the Godzilla series in later years to compose scores that were very catchy and memorable, especially his last one, but his first crack at it, like the film itself, is pretty standard and so-so. It's not bad music, it's just pedestrian. The opening titles theme has a nice, sort of adventurous sound to it and is somewhat memorable but the rest of the score isn't quite as well done. The music that's meant to be Godzilla's theme here is pretty standard in how it tries to create menace with a low, lumbering and the same goes for the music that plays during the climactic battle at the end, which is just some random pieces of music that pop up here and there, and that which plays during the softer moments, like when Tsukioka is talking to Hidemi and when Kobayashi is trying to find some gifts for his would-be bride. Like I said, I do like the bit of score that closes out the movie and the song that's sung in the nightclub where Tsukioka and Hidemi are dancing before Godzilla appears nearby has a nice, peaceful sound to it that I like (I don't know if Sato himself actually came up with that but I figured I'd just mention it here anyway). In conclusion, the score is just like the movie itself: not bad but certainly not great or that memorable either.

At the end of the day, Godzilla Raids Again has all of the signs of a quickie sequel whose purpose was only to cash in on the success of its parent film. It's a very forgettable and quite boring film, with a bland cast of characters, bad pacing, long stretches where nothing that interesting happens, action scenes that quickly become tedious and repetitive when they should be exciting, a lackluster climax, and a fairly standard and unmemorable music score. While there are some nice touches here and there, such as some competently done shots and images, as well as good points during some of the mostly tedious action scenes and some impressive special effects, and the characters are also certainly not unlikable, on the whole, it's not a fun film to watch. You have to cut the movie some slack, though, due to how quickly it was rushed out in order to strike when the iron was still hot, which resulted in some technical goofs, and the fact that the people at Toho hadn't yet perfected or even thought of the monster battle formula yet (that's obvious given that the big battle between Godzilla and Anguirus comes in the middle of the film instead of being the climax) but regardless, when you watch it, it's little wonder why another movie featuring Godzilla wasn't made for seven years.

Gigantis, the Fire Monster
 
File:Gigantis.jpgThose who feel that Godzilla, King of the Monsters is a disgraceful bastardization of the first film have obviously never seen the sheer insanity and incompetence that is Gigantis, the Fire Monster. Say what you will about King of the Monsters but at least the people behind that version had some modicum of respect for the film that they were Americanizing and only made changes to it in order to make it easier for American audiences of the time to accept; Gigantis, on the other hand, was made by a group of dumbasses. If you saw this version and had no idea how radically different it was from the original Japanese version, you'd probably think that the people at Toho were fucking retarded! This movie has it all: overbearing, pointless narration, bad dubbing, nonsensical dialogue, needless stock footage that adds nothing to the plot, and an air of incompetency that hasn't been matched except by maybe the worst of really badly dubbed kung-fu movies. As I said back at the beginning of this review, this is the only "classic" Godzilla movie that I never saw as a kid. I first heard about it while reading a Crestwood House monster book on Godzilla and, even though I recognized Godzilla, as well as Anguirus, from the pictures in the book, I assumed that in my childhood naivety that the people behind it knew what they were talking about and went along with the idea that this monster was actually Gigantis (and that it was female, as the book said), although I didn't understand why they then went on to say that people soon realized that this was the sequel to Godzilla. It wasn't until years later when I read the Godzilla Compendium that I not only learned that this was indeed the second Godzilla film and that it's official English title was Godzilla Raids Again but I also got my first sense of the ludicrous adaptation process that this film was put through when it was brought over to America. I wouldn't fully realize how badly butchered this film was until I saw documentary specials on Godzilla and read books such as Godzilla On My Mind and so, when the film finally came to DVD from Classic Media, I mainly just stuck to the original Japanese version and only watched the Gigantis version with Steve Ryfle's entertaining audio commentary (which I encourage you to go listen to because it's a hoot). When I finally mustered up the courage to watch the American version, it was just as unbelievable as I figured it would be... actually, it may have been a little bit worse. Bottom line, Godzilla Raids Again might not be a classic but this version? Whew, where do I begin?
 
First, I guess a little history lesson is in order to understand how this whole thing came to be. The rights to Godzilla Raids Again were initially bought by a small studio called AB-PT Productions who, rather than merely creating an American dub for the film, intended to simply take the special effects footage featuring Godzilla and Anguirus and build an entirely new story around it. The planned film, titled The Volcano Monsters, was to have portrayed the creatures simply as dinosaurs and the filmmakers planned to edit out all shots of Godzilla using his atomic breath and to edit the footage to make them look about as big as typical dinosaurs in order to accomplish this. Moreover, they also intended to create some special effects shots of their own and managed to convince Toho to send them the Godzilla and Anguirus suits to film this new footage. Ultimately, the film, which was intended for a 1957 release, was never made due to the disbandment of AB-PT Productions that very year (however, many elements from the script written for the film were used years later in the 1962 monster film, Reptilicus). In 1958, Paul Schreibman, an entertainment lawyer and occasional producer who had been involved with Godzilla, King of the Monsters, acting as a go-between for Toho and the American filmmakers, along with Edmund Goldman, the very man who got the idea of releasing the original film to an American audience, and another producer by the name of Newton P. Jacobs bought the rights to Godzilla Raids Again to dub the film for American audiences. You'd think that would have been a rather simple task to accomplish but, as things seem to often be in Hollywood, it ended up getting more complicated than it should have been.
 
The big question here is, why did they change Godzilla's name to Gigantis? There are two possible reasons for this, with the more reasonable one being that Warner Bros., the distributor of the new version, couldn't get the rights to the name "Godzilla" from Joseph E. Levine; however, given that Paul Schreibman was involved with the Americanization of the original film, that seems unlikely. Therefore, we have to ponder the other reason, which, sadly, seems to be the truth since there's evidence to back this up, including statements from the man himself. Apparently it was the idea of Schreibman himself. For some ungodly reason, Schreibman decided that he wanted to give people the impression that this was not Godzilla but was a different monster altogether. Now think about that for a second. Godzilla, King of the Monsters had been a substantial success when it was released in 1956, garnering over $2 million, and had put Godzilla on the map in America... and yet, this guy, who had been involved with that film, decides for whatever reason that he doesn't want people to know that this movie is a sequel to that film and to that end, renames the monster Gigantis and does a lot of tinkering with his roar (I'll get to that), even though people already knew what Godzilla was. Schreibman died in 2001 at the age of 92 but even so, I still have to ask this question: Mr. Schreibman, were you fucking stupid? Only the idiotic ideas that I've heard that Jon Peters has come up with rivals this kind of idiocy. And this is also a guy who was not humble at all, who took sole credit for discovering Godzilla, getting the American version of the first film made, and said that Toho owed him everything (Steve Ryfle plays an audio clip from an interview he conducted with Schreibman back in the 90's during his and Ed Godziszewski's audio commentary on Classic Media's DVD release of Godzilla, King of the Monsters, so you can go there for confirmation of his ego). Maybe he was a part of the reason why Toho got more recognition in America since he acted as an entertainment lawyer for them and all that but regardless, the ego that this guy had, especially after making an idiotic decision like that, is mind-boggling. Somebody should have let him know during his lifetime that he needed to eat a little bit of humble pie (maybe someone did and I just don't know it).

As if that's going to automatically fix everything.
It's very tempting to say that Gigantis is so bad that it's good. To be perfectly honest, some of the bizarre and atrociously bad dubbing and plot elements do make you laugh as a result of their sheer absurdity. But as a whole, the film is a mind-numbing and downright irritating viewing experience. It essentially elicits from me the polar opposite feelings I feel towards the original Japanese version. Godzilla Raids Again is so bland that I said I kind of wished it was really bad since at least then I could get some entertainment value out of it instead of just sitting there bored most of the time. Gigantis, however, is so poorly done that it's mostly just annoying. A big reason for that is because, as Steve Ryfle mentioned in his audio commentary, the film literally never shuts up. It starts with a pointless prologue with a melodramatic narrator telling us about the creation of mechanical monsters (i.e. nuclear weapons), man's obsession to explore the vast reaches of the universe, and that there may be sinister secrets not yet discovered on Earth, all over needless archival footage of nuclear explosions and rockets blasting off into space. After that, the opening credits begin, playing over footage that comes later in the film during the battle between Godzilla and Anguirus in Osaka and accompanied by some loud, overbearing stock music, which is something you'd better get used to here. By the way, while we're on the subject of the credits, I'd like to point out that a lot of the names are misspelled. This wasn't an uncommon mistake in the Americanizations of Japanese monster movies (Ishiro Honda's name often got misspelled "Inoshiro Honda") but, look at how some of these names are written: Mindru Chiaki (Minoru Chiaki, who played Kobayashi), Shigem Kayama (original story-writer Shigeru Kayama), and Eliji Tsuburaya (Eiji Tsuburaya). Now, you might think that those misspellings aren't that bad, which is true. They aren't that far off. But then, you come to director Motoyoshi Oda's name, which is written as, "Motoyoshi Qdq." At first, I thought it was spelled "Odo," which wouldn't have been forgiveable but, upon looking at it closer, it is indeed, "Qdq." Exactly how are you supposed to pronounce that? I guess they figured audiences wouldn't bother paying attention to the credits, let alone those of a Japanese monster movie. And by the way, later home video releases of the film, including the one used by Classic Media for their DVD release, digitally replaced the title Gigantis, the Fire Monster with the Americanized title for the Japanese version, Godzilla Raids Again, as if they were trying to somehow fix the pointlessness of that retitling. Given that they didn't change anything else, including the characters' referring to Godzilla as Gigantis, they probably ended up making it even more confusing.

After the opening credits, we're introduced to Tsukioka via narration, a function that he will serve in an overdone, redundant manner throughout the entire film. That's what I meant when I said that the film never shuts up. Keye Luke voices Tsukioka and probably gave himself laryngitis, he talks so much in this film. He describes everything in excruciating detail, even when you can get the idea yourself just by looking at the screen. He says, "I picked up my intercom," and we see him do so. He says, "From headquarters to our ship went the message," while we're watching one of the female radio operators send said message via morse code. After Godzilla and Anguirus fall into the water near Iwato Island, Tsukioka informs us that, "We dashed out of our hiding place, through the rocky cavern as the monsters still fought underwater," as we see that very scene he described. I think you get the picture. But it doesn't stop there. Tsukioka also feels the need to describe the emotions of every single scene in such florid detail that it just makes you roll your eyes. When it seems as if Godzilla (I'm not calling him Gigantis, so don't even) will bypass Osaka, Tsukioka tells us, "The city was relieved by the news. A spirit of celebration came over everyone. They went out and danced and generally made merry at all the nightclubs and restaurants. It was as though a national holiday had been declared. All the shows in town did sellout business as people flocked to their favorite places of amusement. Joy was everywhere. At the international club, the word went around, 'Everyone forget your troubles! Enjoy yourselves! There is nothing to worry about! Life is wonderful again!' Hidemi and I felt that way too, when we went dancing at our favorite nightclub." And when Godzilla turns around and heads back towards Osaka? "The siren announced to the entire city that the alert was on. The blackout had begun. Overhead, a squadron of planes moved into readiness. It was no different from war. On the streets, mobile units began taking up their positions. The ominous drones of planes overhead gave us all a feeling of the size of the operation. This would be no easy battle. Petty problems at the moment were forgotten. How many casualties would there be before it was over? No one dared guess." Here's one more for good measure, which you hear upon seeing the aftermath of Godzilla and Anguirus' battle: "There it was: a city of total devastation. Everywhere, destruction and ruin. This was a place where people had spent their lives in happiness. Now, it was a smoking cemetery, filled with charred memories. As the doctor and his branch foreman, Shibeki, surveyed the wreckage, they were likewise filled with anguish. It was a sight to crush the hearts of men." This is what it's like through 90% of the film: "Blah, blah, blah, captain obvious dialogue. Blah, blah, blah, overdone narration more worthy for a novel than a movie." Just on and on and on, never stopping until the movie is over, and when the narration isn't droning on, either someone else or a batch of bad stock music is. It is, in short, sensory overload in the worst possible way.

As overwhelming as Keye Luke's narration is, his is hardly the only case of poor dubbing here. Kobayashi is dubbed by Daws Butler, who would go on to be the voice of Yogi Bear, and is given a comical, oafish voice that makes Mel Blanc's voice for Barney Rubble sound very cultured and dignified by comparison. I guess since Kobayashi is a little heavyset, they decided that he should have a voice that fits with it, an idea that's both narrow-minded and insulting. Even if that was their thinking, was it necessary to make him sound like a bumbling moron with a dopey laugh? How stereotypical can you get? It hurts the impact of his death a little bit (not that there wasn't much there for me anyway). Speaking of which, they take out a lot of the material concerning Kobayashi's search for a bride, with it only being mentioned for the first time during the company party and while the scene where he asks Hidemi what women want is still present, it's redundancy to the story is somewhat lessened due to how much of this subplot was removed, although it's still a bad idea for this scene to interrupt the search for Godzilla. By the way, going back to Tsukioka for a moment (you're probably thinking, "Do we have to?"), more emphasis is given on whether or not he's a courageous man. This was a passing bit of dialogue in the Japanese version but, throughout this cut, Tsukioka constantly questions his own courage, saying that the reason he's taking part in dangerous operations such as the search for and the battle against Godzilla is because he feels he's been a coward long enough. He even ends the film by saying that Kobayashi's sacrifice had taught him the meaning of courage. It's especially odd when you think about how a subplot involving Kobayashi in the Japanese version is brought down here while a brief bit of dialogue with Tsukioka is emphasized. It doesn't matter, though, because, like Kobayashi's search for love, the idea concerning Tsukioka's courage doesn't amount to anything. It's also interesting to note how, in this version, Tajima and the others are said to have been in the same air corps as Tsukioka, while in the Japanese version, they were simply college buddies. It's even more fascinating to note that this was the exact of opposite of how Dr. Serizawa was portrayed in the two versions of the first film: he was a reclusive war veteran in the Japanese version, whereas in Godzilla, King of the Monsters, he attended college with reporter Steve Martin. That's not at all important to this discussion but I just thought it would be something interesting to think about.

Besides Keye Luke, other notable actors did dub work for this film. Veteran actor Paul Frees, who had one of the most recognizable voices in American entertainment, provides the dubbing for the character of Yamaji (who inexplicably has the title of doctor here, even though he's the president of the fishery), along with other incidental characters. And speaking of incidental characters, if you listen closely to some of them, especially the voice that often comes over the intercom system, you should recognize a certain deep voice. It belongs to none other than George Takei, who did some of his first work as a dub actor. You can also hear his voice in the American version of Rodan, which was released in America in 1957. And the narrator of the film's prologue is Marvin Miller, the voice of Robby the Robot from Forbidden Planet, who would later on dub Akira Takarada for the English version of Godzilla vs. Monster Zero, which we'll get to. So, despite how amateurish the end result ultimately is, this film had some good actors providing the dubbing. Unfortunately, even the greatest actors ever can only do so much with badly translated and written dialogue.

Potentially the greatest film line ever.
The dubbing in this film has to be heard to be believed. When you read what I'm about to write, you might be tempted to think that I'm just messing with you but, I assure you, every bit of dialogue that you're about to see is uttered by the voice actors in this movie. Sometimes the dubbing is idiotic, and other times it's completely nonsensical. At the beginning of the film, after Tsukioka asks Hidemi if she would like to go out dancing that night, the other female radio operator tells Hidemi, "Someday I'm going to be loved like that. Take me?" Hidemi replies, "Ha, ha, ha, I can't. Get your own guy," prompting the other woman to randomly say, "Kiss me again. I'm all yours." What else can you say to that except, "Huh?" When Tsukioka meets up with Kobayashi after he's landed at Iwato Island, he tells him that he should get the girls a present when he gets back to town as a token of his gratitude. Kobayashi's response? "Down, boy. I guess I honestly wouldn't know what to buy." Tsukioka then laughs and offers this little ditty: "Trying to please a woman is like swimming the ocean." Um, okay. After Godzilla and Anguirus have completely destroyed the cannery, Yamaji tells Shibeki that he will rebuild it and when the latter asks when reconstruction will begin, Yamaji says, "Right away. I'll go get the tools." I'm no authority on construction but I think rebuilding a decimated factory is going to make more than just some tools, don't you? But, we can't forget the most notorious piece of dubbing to come out of the film. When Hidemi tells Tsukioka, "You're so brave, Tsukioka. Absolutely, darling," Tsukioka laughs off her claim with the classic line, "Ah, banana oil. I was desperate and worried and anxious." That line is so ridiculous and nonsensical that it's become something of a legend amongst really bad English dubs of foreign films, with its use stemming from the fact that nothing else fit the lip movements for the word "bakayarou," which Hiroshi Koizumi uttered there. (Incidentally, that word generally means "idiot" or "fool" and the like, so Tsukioka basically just called his fiancé an idiot. Real smooth, prince charming.) From what I heard, it was so silly that it took Keye Luke a few times to say it without cracking up. I actually may have to start using that more often. Ah, banana oil!

It's a picture!
The scene where the sheer absurdity of the proceedings come to a head to absolutely baffle the viewer is when Tsukioka and Kobayashi make their report of the monsters they saw to the authorities and to Dr. Tadokoro and Yamane. Not only is the dialogue here absolutely dumbfounding but the pseudo-science and the confusing classification of the monsters, coupled with the film that Yamane plays for the men, will make you wonder what was in that soda you drank just a little while ago. When Tadokoro identifies one of the monsters as a, "Gigantis, born millions of years ago," one of the officials there randomly comments, "So, wouldn't that open worlds new to you?" Tadokoro completely ignores that statement and replies, "So, a new book came out and we learned so much. And it is called Ankylosaurus: Killer of the Living." The same official asks, "Ankylosaurus?" To which Tadokoro replies, "True. Take a look at this." He then hands someone the book and redundantly says, "It's a picture," before eventually reading from the book himself, saying, "I'll read you what it says. 'Somewhere, although it is not known when, these creatures may come alive after years of hibernation due to radioactive fallout.'" That's a paleontology book and yet, it's saying that nuclear fallout can revive these creatures! The classification of the monsters is also very confusing here because Anguirus is referred to in the book as, "a member of the Anguirus family of fire monsters," but right after that, when the military official introduces Dr. Yamane, he comments, "Perhaps he can shows us the way to destroy the Gigantis monster of the Anguirus family," and even Yamane himself calls the first Godzilla in the film that he shows (oh, yeah, I'll get to that), "a member of the Anguirus family." As if you weren't confused enough already, when Anguirus appears in Osaka shortly after Godzilla, Tsukioka shouts, "It's the Anguirus!" as if to now make it clear that Godzilla and Anguirus are once again of two different species. It'd make your head explode if you didn't know any better.

But where the scene really goes off the rails is when Dr. Yamane shows his film to the authorities. In the original Japanese version, all the film consisted of was footage of the first Godzilla's attack on Tokyo in the original film and it was completely silent save for the sound of the projector, which actually made it rather effective. Here, though, not only does Yamane narrate over the entirety of the film but it's padded out with stock footage from educational films and other films like Unknown Island before we even get to the footage from Godzilla. This film is meant to show the creation of the Earth and how these creatures known as the "fire monsters" came to be but it's just... well, read this narration: "What you are looking at, gentlemen, is the formation of the world millions of years ago, as science has been able to reconstruct it for you. Out of the boiling atmospheric gases of our planet Earth, nature evolved a world much hotter than the one we know of today. Out of these boiling Earth pools came a primitive form of life, which, normally enough, required oxygen and nitrogen. These creatures were born out of fiery matter. Their very existence was based upon the element of fire. They breathed fire, they survived in fire, fire was a part of their organic makeup. As the world changed physically due to fierce radiation layers from the sun, everything dried up. Vegetation was suddenly wiped out by the intense cosmic rays which swept the Earth. The Earth was undergoing a violent change. There was an atmospheric change in temperature. The hardy prehistoric monsters went underground and, in order to survive, hibernated for a vast period of time. But the change had caused volcanoes all over the world. There were upheavals from within, as fiercely hot gasses spewed out of the interior of the Earth's core, which poured fiery lava down upon the surface of the Earth itself. Again, the weather changed, to cold, then hot again, melting the ice and forming oceans, where a form of more moderate temperature set in. Now, these prehistoric monsters came out of their hiding places. But they were conditioned to the terrible ordeal of fire and became almost indestructible. They lashed back at nature. In the 20th century, man filled the air with radiation, which shook these prehistoric monsters from underground. The result was the first... Anguirus." Throw in all of that aforementioned stock footage, which includes shots of a creature rising from what I guess is supposed to be the primordial soup, lava spewing and volcanoes erupting, and normal lizards and people in very dodgy dinosaur costumes meant to be prehistoric monsters, and you've got an "educational" film that not even the dumbest kids would buy. Head hurting yet? Well, it's about to get worse.

The reason that Yamane initially gives for playing this ludicrous film is to show the authorities what the same type of monster as Gigantis did to Tokyo. Hearing that, you might be thinking, "I thought this version wasn't meant to be a sequel to Godzilla?" Well, that's what I thought too but then, sure enough, we eventually get to the footage from the first film of Godzilla destroying Tokyo. The name "Godzilla" may never be mentioned here and Yamane still refers to him as a member of the Anguirus family but nevertheless, despite his ill-advised decision to make people think that the Godzilla in this movie was a different monster altogether, Paul Schreibman still left in this footage from the original film. Hell, he even had Yamane say that the only way they were able to kill the "Anguirus" was with the Oxygen Destroyer! So, what in God's name was the point of going through all of this effort of renaming Godzilla "Gigantis" if he didn't eliminate the ties to the original film? What, did Schreibman think that people wouldn't recognize that footage as being from the first Godzilla movie, which, again, was a huge hit over here, and get further confused as to whether or not this was supposed to be a sequel to that film? They still attempt to pass Godzilla off as a different monster by replacing a majority, though not all, of his roars in the film with those of Anguirus (at least, I think that was the intention; either that or it's another idiotic mistake on the part of these moronic filmmakers) but by this point, the damage has been done and it's obvious that these people have no idea what they're doing. This whole thing just astounds me.

There's stock footage and stock music galore in this film. Besides those aforementioned pieces of stock footage involving nuclear weapons, rockets being shot into space, and the clips from educational films and Z-grade dinosaur movies like Unknown Island, there are others, such as some that paint a rather stereotypical portrait of Japan. At the beginning of the film, when Tsukioka is describing to us what life is like in the community of Kaiyo near Osaka (in the original Japanese version, you could surmise that he and the other characters merely lived in Osaka itself), we see footage of people working in the fields, picking and then preparing wheat, and doing other such chores, all near what appears to be a very poor, dusty village. Tsukioka himself acknowledges that the people's methods may be old-fashioned and primitive but then says, "The people are content in what they are doing. They do not complain, for they have learned that hard work makes for happiness." Later on in the film, when it's believed that Godzilla might come to land near Osaka, we're treated to a montage of the operation that's going on to find him, as well as footage of people gathering in the streets and three men standing around and praying, with Tsukioka telling us that some of the people, "Looked towards the heavens for help, and uttered silent prayers." And finally, at the end of the film after Godzilla has been completely buried in ice, we're told by Tsukioka that, "back home, a grateful nation rang out the bell of happiness and bowed their heads in homage to the men who had died to save them from this awful terror," a statement that is accompanied by footage of monks ringing a very old-fashioned bell and then bowing (I think some of these people might actually be soldiers but I'm not sure). Noticing a pattern here? The movie appears to be trying to make Japan out to be a primitive country where people work in the fields, picking grain, everyone prays for help from a higher power when something threatens them, and have very primitive ways of celebrating. Even the modern city of Osaka can't escape being portrayed in a stereotypical light. During that montage where Tsukioka prattles on about how everyone was relieved and celebrating when it seemed as if Godzilla would bypass the city, we see stock footage of kabuki and other clichéd Japanese customs, like a bunch of background dancers with swan feathers for an American singer. I'm not saying that you wouldn't find clubs and other places that offer this as entertainment in Osaka or other major Japanese cities today but, when it's lumped in with the other stock footage shown in this film, along with the rather stereotypical "Engrish" voices that some of the dub actors give their characters (the guy who voices Dr. Yamane is especially cringe-inducing), it gives you a feeling of, "ugh."

You also have to love how they try to make the scenes where they're searching for Godzilla feel bigger than they were originally, with stock footage of battleships and submarines searching the ocean, melodramatic newspaper headlines such as GIGANTIS SIGHTED ON SHIKOKU-KISHU COAST and GIGANTIS RETURNING FOR SECOND STRIKE!: TERROR STALKS THE EARTH (the newspapers, by the way, are the Osaka Times and Japanese Times respectively; try researching if those ever existed), and, of course, Tsukioka's constant narration, which lets us know that this was war against a horrible enemy from the past and such. I especially like the way it is during the montage in the film when Godzilla is sighted again after having destroyed Osaka, which is when you see that second headline. According to Tsukioka, the entire world became alerted to the monster's reappearance and the United Nations discussed what to do about this emergency. Not only do we see more stock footage, including animation that was probably played during wartime to give the general public an understanding of military operations (I think I saw that in Disney's wartime propaganda film, Victory Through Airpower), but we also see footage of meetings that are meant to be taking place within the United Nations and such, while Tsukioka tells us that the delegates, "listened in stunned silence," that it was made clear that Godzilla could potentially attack the United States, and, "plans were quickly put into effect." Well, first of all, in those meetings where they're supposedly discussing how to contend with the monster, the delegates and members of Congress seem to be just sitting around and looking bored, rather than listening in stunned silence. For another, I love that the United Nations only became concerned when it was said that Godzilla could attack the United States. But the best has to be another newspaper headline, which reads AMERICA OFFERS HELP: U.S. To Assist Japan in Attempt To Run Down Gigantis. And what does America do? Absolutely nothing. Yeah, we're told that they assisted in searching for Godzilla and all that but they didn't lift a finger to help the Japanese against him during the final battle on Kamiko Island. America, fuck yeah! You just got to love it.

A lot of the music that was composed by Masaru Sato was removed from the American version and replaced with a bunch of stock music from films like Kronos and Project Moonbase. Like I said in my review of the Japanese version, Sato's score wasn't exactly good, it was just kind of average, but at the very least, it didn't sound like really low-grade, B-movie music. The music that they put in here is ultimately what hammers home the feeling that what you're watching is a cheap, bottom-of-the-barrel monster movie. There's no other way to describe it than to say that it's the final "compliment" to a film that is unbelievably amateurish and clumsy in its execution. Furthermore, the stock music adds even more to what I was talking about earlier, about how this film never shuts up. If you don't have Tsukioka or someone else, like Dr. Yamane, talking your ear off with their narration, you have stock music placed in every nook and cranny of the film, even where there was originally no music at all or, at the very least, the music that was originally there was somewhat quiet. That's what I meant when I said that this movie overloads your senses to the point where it becomes downright irritating.

It's interesting to note how similar Gigantis is to the American version of Rodan that was released in 1957. For one, a lot of the same actors did dub work for that film. Not only do you hear the voice of George Takei there as well, along with Paul Frees, but Keye Luke once again dubs the lead character as well as provides narration for the film. Fortunately, though, his narration there isn't anywhere near as overwhelming and tedious. Like Gigantis, they felt the need to add in a prologue talking about nuclear weapons and what the consequences of their constant testing could mean for mankind, in particular for the country of Japan. And, as with this film, a lot of the score that Akira Ifukube composed for Rodan was removed in favor of stock music from other films and the makers of that version also seemed to have felt that the original version was a little too quiet so they added music in places where there originally wasn't any and put in more roars from Rodan as well. However, despite all of these similarities, and the fact that most of the changes to that film aren't for the better, I want to make it to clear that the American version of Rodan is infinitely better than the spectacular mess that Godzilla Raids Again was turned into. It might not be one of the best American versions of these types of movies but at least Rodan feels like it was made with some modicum of competence, which, as you have seen, is more than we could ever say for Gigantis.

Gigantis, the Fire Monster is truly a miracle among bad Americanizations of foreign films. It has absolutely everything that you can think of: bad dubbing, nonsensical dialogue, pointless, overbearing narration that sounds like it was written for an audience of the blind, needless stock footage used to pad out the film (even though this version is shorter than the Japanese one), an attempt to pass Godzilla off as another monster altogether that is not only idiotic but isn't carried out fully, bad stock music that further cements this film as a Z-grade monster flick, and a hard to shake feeling of condescension towards the Japanese on the part of the people who put the film together. There are some who actually find the film entertaining to watch because of how clumsy-footed it is and while I won't deny that there are some aspects that do make me smile and chuckle, on the whole, it's an irritating viewing experience for me. When I said several times that this film overloads your senses, I wasn't kidding. There's so much nonstop noise, be it Tsukioka's or someone else's narration, the bad, overdone dubbing of the other characters, especially Kobayashi, or stock music put into sections where there was originally no music at all, that it's mind-numbing to me and by the end of the film, I feel like I'm going crazy. If you're one of those who can get some enjoyment out of this version's crappiness, power to you. For me, it's simply too much and will always remain a prime example of how not to adapt a foreign film for American audiences. So, with that said, there's only one way I feel I can properly wrap things up here: banana oil!


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